DONEGAL 2-15 FERMANAGH 0-03
BY CHRIS MCNULTY IN CONVOY
STEPHEN Friel’s tenure as Donegal minor manager could hardly have got off to a better start tonight.
Donegal were 18-point winners over a very under-strength Fermanagh in an Ulster Minor League game that was the first competitive game played under the striking floodlights of Convoy’s Pairc Naomh Mhuire.
And Donegal shone, led by a Kilcar contingent that contributed 1-11 of the Donegal total, with second-half goals by Ryan McHugh and Conor Harkin sealing a comprehensive triumph to get the campaign off to a convincing start.
Donegal started with six members of the squad who tasted action in the All-Ireland Vocational School’s final earlier in the year – Ryan McHugh, Raymond McNamee, Kevin McNern, Cathal McGettigan, Willie Gillespie and Eoin McHugh – but it should be noted that Fermanagh were minus the services of 12 members of the MacRory Cup winning St Michael’s Enniskillen side.
That is not to take away from what was a thoroughly encouraging Donegal display, though. With Stephen McBrearty and Ryan McHugh attacking to great effect from the half-back line and Raymond McNamee, on his home sod in Convoy getting his hands on a lot of ball in the middle third, Donegal looked a very well drilled and organised unit.
Everything, even the dead balls, had a rehearsed looked about it and with attackers like Eoin McHugh, Willie Gillespie and Aodhán McGinley, whose free kicking really impressed, Donegal advance into their campaign with confidence high.
They started well Two Aodhán McGinley frees sandwiched a point from play by midfielder Conor Harkin as Donegal established an early foothold on things.
Fermanagh’s absentees told as they lacked any sort of killer instinct. With a dozen of the St Michael’s brigade unavailable was no surprise that they looked out of sorts.
It took the Erne boys 17 minutes to get their first point, Sean Keenan firing over from the right-hand side. Fermanagh had spurned a glorious chance of a point three minutes earlier when Sean Mullaney kicked wide from a 13-metre free.
By the time Keenan popped over Fermanagh’s first score, Donegal were five ahead – Ryan McHugh cooly tucking over after combining with club colleague McBrearty, followed by McGinley tapping over a free awarded when he was held off the ball.
Kennan’s score did little to spark life into the Fermanagh challenge, which was already looking feeble, and Donegal finished the half with a flourish.
McGinley fed Eoin McHugh with a ’45 and he turned over in style having been denied seconds earlier by a good save from McNally.
McGinley landed a free from distance and there were seven points between them when McHugh slotted over. Donegal were nine up at the changeover as Willie Gillespie knocked over a quick-fire brace.
Indeed, the margin could have been greater but for the intervention of McNally in goals – the ‘keeper saved well from Eoin McHugh after good approach work by Ryan McHugh and the follow-up by Cathal McGettigan was beaten out by the Fermanagh custodian too.
Leading 0-10 to 0-1 at the break, Donegal didn’t waste time in extending the advantage with Ryan McHugh on the mark inside a minute of the restart before McNally again sprang to the rescue for Fermanagh, denying sub McNelis from close range.
Donegal grabbed their first goal on 46 minutes with a move firmly made in Towney, Eoin McHugh scampering clear to release Ryan, who made no mistake, drilling home from close range.
McGinley bagged another three frees and sub Mark Gallagher got in on the act before the second arrived late in the day. Eoin McHugh was again the provider, teeing up midfielder Conor Harkin and the Burt man brilliantly beat McNally with a thunderous finish as Fermanagh’s night ended with two men sent off for double bookings.
A heartening and encouraging start for the new management team, for whom bigger tests will await – starting next time out against Tyrone in Ballybofey on Saturday week.
Donegal: Daniel Mullarkey; Ciaran Lynch, Nicholas Breslin, Conor Parke; Stephen McBrearty, Ryan McHugh (1-2), Gary Kelly; Raymond McNamee, Conor Harkin (1-1); Kevin McNern, Cathal McGettigan, Aodhán McGinley (0-7, 7f); Oisin Carr, Willie Gillespie (0-2), Eoin McHugh (0-2). Subs: Brendan McNelis for McGettigan (half-time); Mark Gallagher (0-1) for Gillespie (46 mins); Kevin Herron for McBrearty (50 mins); Kevin O’Loughlin for McNern (50 mins); Conor Cairns for Mullarkey (56 mins)
Fermanagh: Ryan McNally; Martin Beagan, Niall Carson, Ciaran Corrigan; Paul Coulter, Philip Leonard (0-1, 1f), Niall McMahon; Johnny O’Reilly, Colin Logan; Kevin Curran, Jack McCann, Eoin McManus; Sean Keenan (0-1), James Allan, Sean Mullaney. Subs: Shane O’Hara for Beagan (22 mins); Shane Mimnagh (0-1) for Logan (half-time); Daragh Leonard for Allan (half-time); Sean Michael Breen for Mullaney (half-time).
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone).
Last weekend’s comfortable 4-10 to 0-1 win against Carndonagh in Inishowen, clinched the Division 4 League title for Convoy.